This section provides detailed general style and formatting requirements for manuscripts published in the AACR journals. Although it is not compulsory for manuscripts to strictly adhere to all these requirements at initial submission, those that deviate substantially may be returned. For initial submission only, authors are encouraged to present each figure and its legend together in sequence to facilitate peer review. Authors of revised manuscripts must observe all instructions below and in the individual journal instruction pages.
See the links below for each journal’s specific instructions for the categories of articles, detailed word count requirements, and any exceptions or additions to the general article style and formatting instructions that follow.
Manuscripts should be written in clear, grammatical English with all pages and/or lines numbered. For the convenience of authors whose native language is not English, we have provided a list of editing and proofreading services for scientific manuscripts in our Author Services Center. Laboratory jargon as well as terminology and abbreviations not consistent with internationally accepted guidelines should be avoided. Numbered and lettered sections in the text should be avoided. Each table and figure must be cited in sequential order in the text. Simple chemical formulas or mathematical equations should be presented in a form that allows their reproduction in single horizontal lines of type.
Manuscripts should be arranged in the following order: title page, text and references, tables, figure legends, and figures (appropriately numbered), but note the exception with regard to initial submission of figures and legends. See below for a full explanation of what is to be included in these sections.
When submitting manuscripts that include supplementary data, please be sure to upload supplementary files separately, in the appropriate area of the submission form (see also the detailed policies on preparation of Supplementary Data). Please do not append supplementary files to the main manuscript file.
Title. Write a brief, informative title. Abbreviations should not be used in titles. It is important for literature retrieval to include in the title the key words that identify the nature of the subject matter, including, if applicable, the species on which the work is done.
Authors and affiliations. Authors are urged to include their full names, complete with first and middle names or initials. Academic degrees should not be included. The names and locations of institutions or companies should be given for all authors. Departments, units, or laboratories should also be specified. If several institutions are listed on a manuscript, it should be clearly indicated with which department and institution each author is affiliated by using corresponding superscript numbers.
Running title. A brief running title of no more than 60 characters should be provided. Choose the running title carefully, as it will be used in electronic alerting services and some mobile device applications. Abbreviations may be used in the running title.
Keywords. Provide 5 keywords identifying the subject of the manuscript.
Additional information. Include the following notes on the title page (if applicable) in this order:
- Financial support, including the source and number of grants, for each author
- Full name, mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and email address of the corresponding author
- A conflict of interest disclosure statement; additional information is available at this link: Conflict of Interest Policy
- • Other notes about the manuscript as a whole, including the word count, and the total number of figures and tables Please note that, authors who substantially exceed the word limit given for the type of article (see specific instructions for each journal) may have their manuscript returned.
For Clinical Cancer Research only, a 150-word statement of translational relevance describing how the results might be applied to the future practice of cancer medicine, should be provided on a page between the title page and abstract.
The abstract must be concise, yet should accurately outline the content of the manuscript (see the Categories of Articles page of each journal for abstract length requirements for each type of article). Because these abstracts are used by secondary services (e.g., MEDLINE, Chemical Abstracts, Web of Science, Scopus), they should recapitulate in abbreviated form the purpose of the study and the experimental technique, results, and data interpretations. Data such as the number of test subjects and controls, strains of animals or viruses, drug dosages and routes of administration, tumor yields and latent periods, length of observation period, and magnitude of activity should be included. Vague, general statements such as "The significance of the results is discussed" or "Some physical properties were studied" should be avoided. Important terms relevant to the content of the manuscript should be incorporated into the abstract to assist indexers and searchers. Abbreviations should be kept to an absolute minimum; however, if they are needed, they must be explained at first mention within the abstract so that it can be understood as an independent unit from the remainder of the manuscript. Do not cite references in the abstract.
The introduction should provide a brief overview of the background and rationale for the study. It is not necessary to cite all of the background literature in the introduction. Brief reference to the most pertinent articles generally suffices to acquaint the reader with the findings of others in the field and with the problem or question that the investigation addresses.
Materials and Methods
Explanation of the experimental methods should be adequate for repetition by qualified investigators. Procedures that have been described in previous publications should not be described in detail but merely cited with appropriate references along with any modifications of the procedure. Only new and substantial modifications of previously published procedures need complete exposition. The sources of special chemicals or preparations used should be provided. Any commercial products that are mentioned should include the name of the manufacturer and catalog numbers.
Include a concise summary of the data presented in all display items (figures and tables). Excessive elaboration of data shown in display items should be avoided.
The data should be interpreted concisely without repeating material already presented in the Results section. Speculation is permissible, but it must be well founded, and discussion of the wider implications of the findings is encouraged.
Include the names of others contributing to the work who are not identified as authors.
Number the references in the order of their first mention in the text; cite only the number assigned to the reference. The reference list should be limited to only those citations essential to the presentation. Before submission of the manuscript, authors should verify the accuracy of all references and check that all references have been cited in the text. The AACR journals' reference style follows that of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals. For manuscripts with more than 6 authors, the names of the first 6 authors must be listed, followed by "et al." For manuscripts with 6 or fewer authors, all authors should be listed.
Warrell RP Jr, Frankel SR, Miller WH Jr, Scheinberg DA, Itri LM, Hittelman WN, et al.
Differentiation therapy of acute promyelocytic 584 leukemia with tretinoin (all-trans-retinoic acid). N Engl J Med 1991;324:1385–93.
Yuspa SH, Hennings H, Roop D, Strickland J, Greenhalgh DA. Genes and mechanisms involved in malignant conversion. In: Harris CC, Liotta LA, editors. Genetic mechanisms in carcinogenesis and tumor progression. New York: Wiley-Liss; 1990. p.115–26.
Article in press
Articles in press may be listed among the references. The author must provide a DOI to the editor to verify that the article is in press at the indicated journal.
A summary of the data should be provided in the text with a callout to the table. Tabular data should not duplicate data already presented in detail in the text. Unnecessary columns of data that can easily be derived from other data in the table should not be included. Large groups of individual values should be avoided; instead, these should be averaged and an appropriate designation of the dispersion, such as standard deviation or standard error, should be included. Authors are obligated to indicate the significance of their observations by appropriate statistical analysis.
Every table must have a descriptive title and enough explanatory information so the reader can understand the data without reference to the text. Table titles should be short and to the point and should generally not include references. Each column must carry an appropriate heading and, if measurements are given, the units should be given with the column heading. Number tables using Arabic numerals; table footnotes should be indicated with lower-case alphabetical letters: a, b, c, etc. Include a note after the footnotes in which all abbreviations used in the table that have not been used in the text are explained. Complex or large tables should be uploaded in a tabular data file format as supplementary data.
Tables should not be included as part of a figure. Authors are discouraged from submitting tables that have been previously published, even with permission.
Figures should be used when salient points need illustration for better comprehension by the reader. Figures must be submitted in their final design and color format. All figures that the author intends to have printed in black and white should be supplied in this format so that editors and reviewers can properly evaluate the presentation of the data. For initial submission only, figures may be supplied in pdf, jpg or Word document format and should be on the same page as the legend, either at the end of the manuscript file or embedded in the text near the figure callout. See File Types for details on the allowable file types for revised manuscripts. Figures may only be supplied in pdf or Word document format for initial submission.
Figure legends should briefly describe each figure and the data shown. Figure legends must include the number of technical and biological replicates performed for the experiment(s) depicted. Legends should not repeat details present in the main text and should generally not include references. Stains and original magnifications should be listed where applicable. Define all symbols and adequately identify all parts of the figure necessary for interpretation. Abbreviations explained in the main text of the manuscript need not be redefined in the figure legend.
Figures must be cited and numbered in the order in which they appear in the text. For revised submissions, all figure legends should be listed together in one section (Figure Legends) directly preceding the appearance of the figures in the manuscript. Ensure that both legends and figures are numbered and match up appropriately.
When graphs are reduced to the size of a single column (7.94 cm / 3.125 in), the text in the graph must be no smaller than 6 pt and no larger than 12 pt, and all symbols must be discernible. In the published form, the minimum thickness of lines (rules) used to present drawn art is 0.5 point. If a drawn image will be reduced in size for publication, the lines used to draw the original art must be thick enough to be reduced and still meet the minimum requirement. Lines thinner than 0.5 point thickness may be completely lost if an image is reduced in size.
Best practices for choice of graph type
- Reserve bar charts for presentation of data such as counts and lengths.
- Use a line graph to display and connect related data points and a bar graph for unrelated data points.
- Sample data is best displayed by plotting individual data points when sample numbers are small. Use a box plot, violin plot, or bean plot for larger sample sizes and to show data distributions. See Statistics for guidelines on sample sizes. A free tool for plotting sample data and generating an EPS file for incorporation into figures is available at http://boxplot.bio.ed.ac.uk.
- A pie chart is effective for showing data trends, but, if it is important to provide quantitative comparisons, a bar graph may be preferable.
Best practices for graph design
- Avoid the use of patterned fills. These add visual clutter and impede interpretation. Use black, up to four shades of gray, and white to provide six alternative encodings; or use color if more encodings are required.
- Always use distinct colors and avoid the use of red and green for contrast.
- Avoid background shading.
- Display only the left and bottom axes unless a top and/or right axis is absolutely necessary.
- Axes labels should not extend beyond the axes lines and must include the name and units of the parameter measured.
- Consider whether related data plotted in multiple graphs can and should be shown in a single graph.
- Remove unnecessary tick marks and grid lines. Use grid lines only when necessary and make sure they have substantially less visual prominence than the data and axes lines.
- Avoid axes breaks. These can mask important differences in the data.
- Open symbols, particularly circles, are most appropriate for plotting high-density data points that overlap.
Best practices for images
- When images are related to one another or should be compared, group them together with narrow bands of white space between them. If the image background is close to white, use lines for separation.
- Symbols, arrows, letters, and scale bars overlying the image should strongly contrast with the background so as to be clearly visible and are best provided on a separate layer from the underlying image in a layered image file.
- Single channel fluorescence images are best displayed in grayscale so that intensity differences can be discerned more accurately. Avoid the use of red, which is particularly problematic in this regard.
Figures should be original. Authors are discouraged from submitting figures that have been previously published, even with permission. If use of a previously published figure is necessary, the author must apply for written permission from the copyright holder and supply confirmation of the permission grant before publication.
Supplementary data is intended to provide additional substantive information that is directly relevant to the article content but not essential for understanding the conclusions. The article must stand on its own merits and be complete and self-explanatory without the supplementary data. Additional text, such as supplementary results or discussion, is not acceptable and should be included in the main article. Supplementary data should be equal in quality and presentation to material within the main article. The supplementary data are subject to the same scientific standards of peer review and are included at the discretion of the editor. Each supplementary item/file must be referenced at least once in the main article text at an appropriate point. Supplementary items should be referred to in a similar manner to that used for a table or figure in the body of the manuscript, for example, "(Supplementary Fig. S1)" or "(Table 3 and Supplementary Table S3)." Each supplementary file should be accompanied by a brief description. The description will be posted online to communicate the contents of the file and to aid in online indexing. Supplementary figures must include full legends (preferably on the same page as the figure) and tables should include captions.
General Guidelines on Acceptability
- Supplementary data should fall within the conceptual scope of the main manuscript but not extend beyond it. Preliminary data that simply extend the scope of the study and unnecessary control data should not be included.
- Supplementary material should not repeat information that is already included in the main manuscript.
- Data that have been previously published are not acceptable.
- Supplementary data may also be that which cannot be included in the main version of the manuscript due to space constraints (e.g., limits placed on the number of figures and tables allowed in an article) or format restrictions.
- Within the above guidelines, supplementary files may include the following:
- Figures and tables
- More detailed materials and methods than can be included in the body of the article, but the main text should contain sufficient methodology for an experienced investigator to replicate the experiments
- Electronic multimedia files (e.g., video, audio, or animation)
- Database information
- Three-dimensional structures/images, sequence alignments, and data sets that are very large
Restrictions on number and size of files
- The number of supplementary files per article may not exceed 8. In special circumstances, an exception may be granted but the author must contact the editorial office prior to acceptance.
- No individual supplementary data file may exceed 50 MB.
The following file types are acceptable file formats for the main manuscript files:
- Manuscript files: Word (doc, docx), Encapsulated Postscript (eps), Rich Text Format (rtf), or pdf (accepted for initial submissions only)
- • Graphics files: eps, tiff, ai, psd, png, ps, or jpg (accepted for initial submissions only). Powerpoint (ppt, pptx) files are discouraged but may be acceptable. Color images should be supplied in RGB.
For supplementary data the following file types are preferable: pdf, doc, docx, eps, rtf, txt, csv, xls, xlsx, xlsb, xml, avi, mov, mp4, wav, aiff, mp3 and zip. Other file types may be acceptable but please contact the journal editorial office.
Terminology and Abbreviations
Generic names of drugs are preferred. In order to identify new compounds that may not be recognized by their generic name, the brand name may be included at first mention only. If a non-U.S. proprietary name is used, the name of the comparable U.S. product should be given. When there is no generic name for a drug, authors should give the chemical name or formula or a description of the active ingredients. Authors should refer to the formally adopted generic names listed in the current edition of USAN and the USP Dictionary of Drug Names.
Abbreviations are in general a hindrance to readers in fields other than that of the author(s), to abstractors, and to scientists whose primary language is not English. Authors should limit their use. See our brief list of Standard Abbreviations that may be used without explanation (e.g., DNA). All abbreviations not on this list must be spelled out at first mention in both the abstract and the text. Single words (e.g., melanoma, folate, vincristine) should not be abbreviated, nor should abbreviations be used for individual types of cancer or other diseases that consist of two words (e.g., prostate cancer or breast cancer).